Softball defeats Middlebury, Wesleyan to secure NESCAC West crown

Softball (28–10, 11–1 in the NESCAC West) won three games at Middlebury and one at Welseyan to win the NESCAC West title for the fourth straight year. The Ephs move on to the NESCAC Championship, which they won last year.

The women completed their regular season with a 5-3 win over the Wesleyan Cardinals on Sunday in Middletown, Conn.

The women never trailed, taking a 3-0 lead in the first on a Rebecca Duncan ’20 RBI single and a two-run knock from Brenna Martinez ’17.

Wesleyan came to tie the game at three in the fourth and fifth innings, but Williams regained the lead in the sixth. Kristina Alvarado ’19 lined an RBI single to center, scoring Casey Pelz ’19. The Ephs added an insurance run in the seventh when Riley Salvo ’20 brought home Lexi Curt ’18.

Curt was 3-for-4 with two doubles and two runs scored. Duncan earned the victory, pitching five innings and allowing four hits and two earned runs. She did not walk a batter and struck out seven. Mackenzie Murphy ’19 recorded the save with two hitless and scoreless innings.

Previously, the Ephs swept a three-game series at Middlebury.

In Friday’s opener, one run was all the support Duncan needed. Jessica Kim ’19 reached on an error, stole second and scored when Murphy doubled.

Duncan (11-4) scattered four hits with seven strikeouts and no walks as she went the full seven innings for the win.

The teams returned to the field Saturday for a doubleheader.

In the first game, the women grabbed a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning when Margo Beck ’18 singled up the middle, scoring Kim and Murphy. The Panthers cut the advantage in half in the bottom of the frame, but the Ephs tacked on a run in the third and two more in the fourth, highlighted by a Curt triple.

Neither team scored over the final three innings, and the game finished 5-1 Williams. Murphy picked up the win, giving up just one run on five hits with three strikeouts over five innings. Emma Corbett ’20 tossed two scoreless innings in relief.

Curt was 2-for-4 in the game with two runs, a double, a triple and an RBI. Her sixth-inning double to right-center was the 33rd of her career, breaking a school record. Curt, who set the Ephs’ record for career home runs earlier this season, snapped a tie with Laura Brenneman ’99.

In the nightcap, Middlebury jumped out to an early 1-0 advantage in the bottom of the second. The Ephs took the lead for good in third on Murphy’s seventh home run of the season, a three-run shot to left-center.

Down 3-1 in the sixth, the Panthers threatened when they loaded the bases with no outs. Pitching in relief, Duncan worked out of the jam without allowing a run, notching a pair of strikeouts and a groundout.

Brooke Bovier ’17 (3-0) picked up the win, giving up just one unearned run on eight hits while striking out three over five frames. Duncan recorded the final six outs, including four on strikeouts, for her second save of the spring.

Duncan won NESCAC Pitcher of the Week honors, and Murphy was a co-Player of the Week.

“One of the highlights of this weekend was our pitching,” co-captain Dana Cohen ’17 said. “They were all tough to hit and battled through some difficult situations to keep us in every game.We’ve been working hard since the fall to make sure we’d get to this point despite being a relatively young team. We’re getting better every day, and that’s exactly where we want to be heading into postseason.”

With the regular season finished, the women move on to the NESCAC Championship. Amherst was the other invitee from the NESCAC West, and Bowdoin and Trinity qualified from the East.

“We’re very prepared for NESCACs,” Head Coach Kris Herman said. “We’re excited to see how our hard work will pay off. There will be great competition, and that’s always fun.”

The Ephs will look to defend their title from last season, and they will be helped by a healthy combination of power and speed. Williams leads the league in home runs (36) and runs scored (201), and it ranks second in slugging percentage (.496) and stolen bases (42).

Bowdoin hosts the three-day tournament, which begins with a pair of games on Friday and continues through Sunday.

The Ephs open their postseason against the Trinity Bantams at 5 p.m. on Friday.